Playbook for Optimizing Your IT Environment for the Cloud

It’s often tempting to jump headfirst into the newest technology platforms, especially with the ease of onboarding. As a technologist who loves to play on the cutting edge, I will admit that I am the first to set up development accounts to try out new technology. Many businesses, however, that jump in without the proper planning find themselves in costly migrations with bills that are much higher than anticipated with little business value to show for it. After years of witnessing and leading engagements in the space, the following tips will help you determine the steps to help avoid costly mistakes. 

Cloud Optimization – Let’s Get Started!

Cloud optimization begins by finding the right balance for your business to accommodate your workload, including developing a strong understanding of how your business uses technology. Not all hosting needs are identical, and there is no universal set of recommendations. Where one company may be built fully on serverless public cloud components, another business may need collocated infrastructure and secure private routes. While the past 5 years have provided immense growth and options, it is critical to plan upfront before executing any infrastructure strategy, proper planning prevents poor performance!

  1. Identify Your Roles and Key Systems: What personnel and systems are directly tied to revenue generation, and how are they impacted if they cannot function? Also, indirect impacts such as brand and reputation should be considered.
  1. Isolating Critical Dependencies: Once you have identified crucial systems, review the dependencies necessary for their function. Flat file feeds, integrated APIs, and cross-cutting systems such as Authentication may not always be obvious. Still, they could have a detrimental impact on your critical systems, even if they remain operational.
  2. Considering End-to-End Connectivity: Particularly with the increasing reliance on remote and hybrid workers, the path to gaining access to their applications must also be considered. Trace the path that employees (remote and on-site), customers, and third-party connections take from their device or hosted application to their destination while considering latency, encryption, visibility, and redundancy.
  1. Security and Compliance Considerations: Regulated industries, as well as Country, Federal, or state-specific legislation, may impact where you can host your applications, store specific types of data, and/or how long your digital records must be retained. Removing or tokenizing regulated data can help open additional options.
  1. Disaster Recovery Needs: Assess how long each system your business can tolerate being down and what period of data loss is acceptable. When planning, consider that a cloud service provider may have a regional or service-based degradation or failure. So, you must ensure a contingency plan is in place for highly critical systems.
OFFSITE provides private, public, enterprise, & hybrid cloud services from our data center in Kenosha, WI

Resource Optimization – Examining The Costs & Technical Requirements Before Moving To The Cloud

Once you have completed the groundwork for evaluating how your technology currently supports your business environment, the next steps are to look at technical and costrelated aspects of your IT environment. 

  1. Equipment Requirements: Inventory your existing serviceable hardware or paid licenses. Identify where you need specific equipment or detailed control of this equipment, which may not be available in the cloud.
  1. Usage Patterns & Utilization: Review your resource utilization to see if you are provisioned appropriately. Look at weekly, seasonal, or event-based utilization patterns and peaks. Identify how critical applications can scale (either by using additional compute instances or a more powerful compute instance), as not all applications allow for automatic scaling due to data being stored directly on the instance or the need to reconfigure the application to recognize new resources.
  1. PaaS & SaaS Usage: Identify opportunities to use SaaS or PaaS capabilities to eliminate the need to host your software. The functionality available through cloud file storage providers or SaaS-based authentication providers can remove the need for services that are commonly hosted locally.
  1. Data Movement & Replication: Data movement and storage can add up quickly when leveraging public cloud providers. Grouping applications that leverage the same data and removing data storage redundancy can amount to tangible savings. Map out your major dataflows between applications and users.
  1. Cost Modeling: Get the base costs required to support your environment – disk speed, processor types, traffic volume, security appliances, circuits, and power usage must all be factored in. There can be a larger number of permutations, so it is advisable to work with your providers or vendors that have experience in this space. 

Cloud Migration – What Is The Best Cloud Solution For Your Business

Using the business and technical data collected, you are now in a good position to identify where you would benefit most from hosting your workloads. For more complex scenarios, this may mean leveraging multiple hosting options. Creating high-level diagrams of connectivity and data flow can be extremely helpful in this phase. The following questions can be asked for each of your workload groupings. 

  1. Local Infrastructure or Colocation Services: Do you have specific equipment or hardware that is still in serviceable condition? Do you have specific regulatory requirements that necessitate using hardware with limited physical access, or do you need very granular control over the network transit path or network security? Do you prefer capital expenditures and have relative consistency for workloads? Do you have the personnel required to manage the equipment or qualified partners in space?  If you plan to keep equipment on-site, always ensure that you consider redundancy for power, cooling, equipment, and networking and have the appropriate observability solution to identify potential issues.
  1. Private Cloud: Do you require a moderate level of control over stable usage or predictable workload growth? Do you have large data movements out of your applications or between clusters? Do you have subtenants for which you need specific hosting solutions? Do you want to supplement or defer technical management or oversight of the infrastructure platform to a partner? Do you prefer your IT expenditures to be operational costs?
  1. Public Cloud & SaaS: Can you transition your existing workloads to SaaS and PaaS? Can you leverage serverless capabilities for some functions? Do you have large variability in your workload usage or the ability to shut down resources when not in use? Do you need a large geographic distribution of resources? Can you group resources in a way to avoid large data outflows? Do you prefer your IT expenditures to be operational costs?

Once you have determined your optimal mapping for hosting, a migration may be required. Look for opportunities to make the largest impact with a minimal amount of change. While the planning phase may be extensive, it can save immensely in the long run by preventing business outages or unnecessary ongoing expenditures. 

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John Pattison - COO OFFSITE Cybersecurity & Managed IT services in Kenosha, Wisconsin

About the Author:

John Pattison – COO & Application Development Practice Lead at OFFSITE

John brings a wealth of expertise to the table with a seasoned background in enterprise architecture, complex platform development, and public cloud migration. His industry concentration lies within the financial services sector, where his innovative solutions and strategic thinking have consistently driven organizational transformation. He is passionate about building and mentoring high-performing, cross-disciplinary teams.  John is currently exploring how machine learning, large-scale distributed systems design, and Web3 technologies can help drive change across industries.